Friday, March 19, 2010

Endurance Corner Tucson Camp, March 2010

Last week I had the chance to go to Tucson for the Endurance Corner training camp. You'll recall that I went to the camp last year and had a great time. There are still folks here in Jackson who can't believe I went to a tri camp. I'll have to admit that, last year, it was a little out of my comfort zone. This year, I wouldn't miss the trip.

Last year, the combination of the first 2 days' riding and the effects of a bout of food poisoning left me some unfinished business for this year. Just thankful that Gordo and JD let me return.

I thought I'd recap the weeks's activities.... I don't have the best collection of photographs--just ones that I took with the iPhone. Sherry was the camp photographer and when she shares her photos, I'll borrow some to supplement mine. Anyway....
I traveled to Tucson on Saturday, getting there mid-afternoon. I used American Airlines for the trip, connecting through Dallas. The day started off great, with the bonus of NOT being charged extra $$ for the bike baggage! I rented a car and headed toward Tucson. You realize, from the very outset, that this is the desert. Even the landscaping at the airport includes the beautiful Saguaro cactus.
My first stop was at Trisports....the store, not the website. It's located between the airport and downtown. They were having a packet pickup for some sort of event the following day, so there were several booths set up outside. The store itself was much smaller than I expected, though. It's amazing what a website will do for expectations. I picked up some CO2 cartridges and was on my way.
The home base for the camp this year was again the Hotel Arizona, located in downtown Tucson near I-10 and adjacent to the Tucson Convention Center. Not the fanciest digs, but comfortable and conveniently located for the week's activities.
I had a great corner room on the 11th floor, with views to the west and north.
I headed out to pick up some snack foods for the week....conscious of the fact that there'd be MANY calories expended as the week went by. After stops at Whole Foods and CVS, it was back to the hotel to assemble the bike. I was pleased that the bike made the trip without damage.
I brought my new road bike, a 2010 Trek Madone, complete with electronic shifting. I knew from last year's experience that having the correct gearing would be important (particularly for one of the less capable cyclists!), so I brought 50/34 and 12-27 for the trip. Good choice.

I checked in with JD and Alan, who had made the 2-day drive from Boulder in the SportsMobile. I also met Gail, Brooke's mom, who was along to help Sherry during the week. I couldn't help but see a lot of Brooke in Gail. And once again, I thought it was really nice that JD brought "the family" along.
I went out to dinner with good friends from my days as a surgical resident in St. Louis....Michael and Mary Lee Moulton. He's now a surgeon at the Univ. of Arizona. They also brought along their youngest avid swimmer, so we had something to talk about. We ate at the Arizona Inn, a lovely dinner and a great chance to catch up with Mike. I hadn't seen them since my unhealthier days....and both were surprised that I had taken up triathlon.

Day #0--Sunday--Arrival Day

Sunday was the arrival day for the camp, but JD and I were up early for breakfast at the hotel and then a long trail run in Saguaro Park East. This is about a 25-min drive from downtown, but worth it. The weather was nice and cool and the scenery in the park is great for a run. Mind you, I didn't run WITH JD, but just AT THE SAME TIME as JD! Best sight was a desert hare. I was amazed by how large it was....and how large its ears were.

After we got back to the hotel, I drove my rental car back to the airport, dropped it off, and met JD for a ride back to the hotel. We picked up Kevin Boucher (a repeat camper from Chattanooga, TN) and JD's Aunt Sherry for the ride back. Good to catch up with both of them. I was flattered that Sherry pointed out in the first couple minutes that I looked skinnier....true, I was about 8-10 pounds lighter than last year. And that would turn out to be helpful on the bike, for sure.

The whole group met for a welcome buffet dinner at 6 pm in a private room off the dining room. This would be our "evening home" for the week. We would eat at 4 tables set for 9, changing dinner companions each night. Great setting for informal conversation about the day's activities.
The coaches this year included JD, Gordo, Kevin Purcell (KP), Jeff Shilt (Dr. J), and Jonas Colting. A bunch of the campers from last year were back, but the group included about 12 new faces and was about 24 total campers this year. We had the usual introductions, enjoyed dinner and some conversation, and JD and Gordo layed down the rules for the week....starting with plans for Monday's long ride.

Monday--Day #1--Madera Canyon

One workout today. We enjoyed breakfast at the hotel and then assembled into 3 groups (A, B, C) according to self-declared cycling ability. I joined the C group, which included about 12 riders plus coaches. We got our stuff together and headed out for a long ride to Madera Canyon. Coach Alan would later join our group after he drove the SportsMobile to its position at ~30 miles into the ride (he rode back to meet the group). It was a cold and rainy morning....pretty dreary, actually. I was bundled up, complete with rain jacket. The rain let up after the first hour or so, but it was pretty cool for the whole day.

The ride heads out to the south on Mission Road for about 30 miles of gradual uphill to a designated re-grouping point just before Green Valley. After a stop for a Pepsi, a snack, and a bathroom break, we headed out through Green Valley and on to Madera Canyon Park. From this point, there was a moderate grade 7-mile climb to the Park entrance, the next stopping point. Some of the campers chose to continue into the park for a steep 3-mile climb to the turnaround, but elected to turn back from the Park entrance. The return ride headed home along the same route and, for me, it was 92 miles on the day. My best power numbers ever for a long ride. A great start to the camp!

Back at the hotel, the bike mechanics, Scott and Marcus, collected the bikes and would have them cleaned and tuned up for the next day's ride. Doesn't get any better than that!

I had a massage at 4pm on Monday. Each of the campers would have a 1-hour massage appointment on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday afternoon. I think I was more sore after the massage than before.

The group dinner featured a talk by Gordo. I could listen to (or read) Gordo for hours on end. Always interesting. Always insightful.

Tuesday--Day #2--40K or 40-Mile

After Monday's long ride, Tuesday was designed to be a lighter day. After breakfast at the hotel, we all headed out by van to the Oro Valley municipal pool (heated, and open year-round), about a 25-minute drive north of downtown. It's a great pool in a beautiful setting....mountainside backdrop.
After some discussion on Monday, Gordo was elected to construct the workout:

400 EZ (1st 25 of each 100 = back)
4 x 100 (25 back, 25 breast, 50 free)
4 x 50 IMO/free by 25's
Main set (long swims moderate, 100's on 1:20):
500, 5 x 100
400, 4 x 100
300, 3 x 100
200, 2 x 100
100, 1 x 100

I was happy to swim in a lane with JD, Gordo, Nina, and Tony. The water was pretty warm, so I was happy they agreed to 1:20 intervals instead of 1:15. Even at that, I chose to use paddles/buoy. Left to their own, JD and Gordo would probably have chosen 1:05 or 1:10, so I appreciate that they went slow to satisfy the campers! The adjacent lane that included Jonas, David, Max, and Flip used the same intervals, but swam the longer swims even quicker. And I noticed that they included a break on deck between each part of the main set. Me? I just stayed in the water.

We had breakfast snacks in the park adjacent to the pool before heading back to the hotel.

Lunch was served in Room 102 at the hotel, a hospitality room that would be open for use all week long. Morning coffee, mid-day lunch, snacks at other times. Sandwiches, chips, drinks for lunch. Good stuff. Even peanut M&M's!

The afternoon ride was broken into 2 groups: a 40K group and a 40-mile group. I joined the 40K group for an out-and-back ride from the hotel, across Gates Pass to a turn-around point, then back across Gates Pass from the west side and back to the hotel. From the east (hotel side), there is a moderate climb, but from the west there is about a 1-mile climb that is very steep. Out of the saddle for a 400W+ effort to get to the top. Last year I had to walk my bike up one of the small hills on the way to the Pass....but not this year! It was another strong effort.

For me (JD's plan), it was a 20-minute transition run off the bike, along the sidewalks of downtown Tucson. Not too scenic and it took a while to get my legs going, but I was pretty happy with the effort.
The group dinner at the hotel included a talk by Alan Couzens on sport-specific strength training. He talked about use of gear for swimming and big-gear low cadence work on the bike. I was pleased that JD and I had been working on all of these things in addition to our gym work.

Wednesday--Day #3--Mt. Lemmon

Mt.Lemmon day! JD had me up early for a pre-breakfast 30-minute run along the streets of Tucson. I felt surprisingly strong given the previous 2 days' activities. I was a little worried, though, that this pre-stress might affect my ability to get up the mountain on the bike.

After breakfast at the hotel, we got a late start with a van ride out to Udall Park, where we caught up with our bicycles. We got ourselves together and headed out for a 42-mile roundrip ride up Mt. Lemmon. The first 7 miles to the base of the mountain were pretty uneventful, but a couple folks made a wrong turn and took a while to catch up. We regrouped at the base and had sendoffs in groups according to ability. I was one of the first to depart and made a very steady effort of the climb, holding things right at HR=140 and power~195W. At mile 7, I stopped at the van to get a drink and then started up again. We were able to ride only as far as Windy Point, at the 14-mile marker, because of snow on the road. A little sad that we weren't able to go to the top, but I was really pleased about effort on the day. The descent was terribly (and surprisingly) cold and at some point I bummed a ride in the SportsMobile to the bottom.

Lunch was served in the Park and we sat out on the grass in the warm sunshine to unwind.

Back at the hotel, Nina and I headed over to the YMCA for a recovery swim and found David and Kevin Farley there already. Nina and I joined David for some spirited 200's and some IM stuff. It worked out to ~2000 yards for me and felt nice after the morning's cycling.

Dinner at the hotel included a talk by Dr. J about shoulder mechanics and injury, featuring his own problems with shoulder injury these past couple years. Best advice? Avoid injury.

Thursday--Day #4--Big Swim Day

Big swim day! After breakfast we headed back to the Oro Valley pool for a long swim. Today's workout was:
60 x 100 Free on intervals of 1:35/1:30/1:25/1:20, with so-called Monsy 100 pattern....
1111, 2222, 3333, 4444, 5555 of each.

Gordo left our lane to join the faster guys (swimming to 1:15), but Flip joined the lane for extra company. I used paddles/buoy and made it a pretty easy, if long, effort. I swam 5th and JD didn't like me creeping on Tony....but I couldn't help it! When JD hopped out (first to talk with another coach and later, for good), the group slowed down. We needed JD for better pacing.

We had some snacks on the park lawn adjacent to the pool before returning to the hotel.

After lunch, we headed out for a 70K ride loop, south on Mission, then Ajo Hwy, then Sandoria Road, Kinnley, Gates Pass, then back to the hotel. The B group got lost, but we were joined by the A group just before the climb up Gates Pass. JD's offer of a beanie to the KOM resulted in a VERY spirited effort to reach the top. Perhaps less spirited for Larry, but a pretty good effort, nonetheless. Max (25-yr old stud) won the beanie. Enjoyed the downhill back to the hotel with JD and John Fell, another athlete that JD coaches (and also President of Advantage Packaging, Inc., 1 of JD's sponsors). JD once again pointed out that coasting is not cool....must always pedal. You'd think I'd have learned that lesson from Panama City Beach when I was taught the first time.

There was a late-afternoon trail run at Starr Pass. Only 1 vanful of campers went. I went, but walked for 45 minutes instead of running. I don't think I was made to run on rocky trail. The scenery was beautiful, though, and the weather was great. I was thankful I didn't get lost....I kept thinking of Vince, who went on and on and on about how the trails were confusing! Sherry was there to take photos, so I ran for a short know, must look good for the camera.

At the end of the run we had a chance to watch a mountain biker ride down the side of a large hill and making a big jump at the bottom. Some suggested that we should Tweet a photo of the guy....and show the world what EC camp day #5 was really like!

Dinner at the hotel included a talk by Jonas Colting, visiting coach from Sweden. He's had a long (~20-year) history in triathlon and is a 2-time winner of the Hawaii Ultraman race. Tonight, he talked about his approach to training (and life) that has allowed for such a long career. Totally entertaining. We were introduced to the "primal walk" and learned that "I don't do misery."

Friday--Day #5--Long Run Day

After 4 days of riding, this would be a ride-free day. We headed out before breakfast to Saguaro Park East for a long trail run. Recall that JD and I had run there on Sunday. For some reason, I was 1 of the last to get started with the run and I followed Trip, Laura, and Max. Nina and Gail also followed and soon we were lost....obviously headed the wrong direction. So.......we had a 12-min out-and-back before joining the correct trail for the run. Nina and I ended up running together, using 15 min run/1 min walk pattern for 1 hour 20 minutes total. Got back to the vans running strong. Nice effort. Again, great weather and scenery. No desert hare this time, but the coyotes were howling. Fun!

After breakfast we headed back to the Oro Valley pool for another swim session. Today's workout was designed by Jonas Colting....he promised something different....and delivered:
500 SKIPS (by 100's)
4 x 50 kick 1-2-3 @1:00
4 x (3 x 25 hypoxic/fast/EZ)
8 x 50 1-arm/fist drill by 25's
Main set:
4 x (12 x 25 Free @0:30--targeting 0:15 for swim) with 50 EZ between
Post set:
4 x 50 Navy Seals (12.5 scull/somersault/12.5 free/flip turn/12.5 polo swim/touch bottom/12.5 fly) on long rest
4 x 25 wheelbarrow with JD (1 pulls, other kicks and holds onto front swimmers leg)

Swam with JD, Nina, and Tony. Good crew again. Didn't live up to the 0:15 target, but gave a pretty good effort. Didn't want to give it all at the pool today and have regrets on the Kitt Peak ride on Saturday.
Dinner at the hotel included a talk by Gordo, maybe best titled, "The Best of Gordo." I can totally identify with the Gordo "before" photo on the dock. Still working to emulate the Gordo "after" photos.

Saturday--Day #6--Kitt Peak

Terrific last day for the camp. Breakfast at the hotel, then early rollout for an epic 100+ mile roundtrip ride to the Kitt Peak Observatory. The C group got a half-hour head start. The ride took us ~40 miles out along Mission Road, then the Ajo Highway to the base of Kitt Peak. There was a gradual climb to this portion of the ride, and the elevation gain was probably about ~1000 feet or so. We were caught by the B group and eventually the A group and everybody could re-group at the SportsMobile at the base of Kitt Peak. Gail and Sherry had set up a mini-kitchen, with all sorts of snacks and beverages. They would be sunbathing while the riders headed up the mountain. A couple riders turned back to Tucson at this point, but most everybody made the climb.

The climb up the mountain is just over 12 miles, to a final elevation of 6750 feet. Pretty steep by Larry's standards. I was 1 of the last to depart and worked hard to close up a big gap to John Fell. Coach Alan and Jason were behind, but all 4 of us gathered at the top for photos after a successful climb. I was pretty excited since I could only make it to the 4-mile marker last year. Progress!

I decided to sag down the mountain instead of ride. Again, I'm not much on heights. After a snack, John, Alan, Jason, and I gathered for the return ride to Tucson. We made good time on the slightly downhill return, helped by a tailwind for much of the trip. We stopped at a local convenience store about half-way back, enjoyed a drink there, and John treated me and Alan to lottery tickets (mine was a loser!).

Back at the hotel, I gathered up Nina, Kevin Boucher, and Kevin Farley for a recovery swim at the YMCA. Just 1000 yards for me. A more spirited swim for Kevin F.

Dinner the last night was both fun and sad. Fun to celebrate the day's and the week's accomplishments....but sad that the camp was drawing to a close. Gordo asked each of the coaches to toss out 3 benchmarking ideas....and there were a variety of ideas.

Sunday was departure day. Up early for a 6:15 departure to the airport. Was happy to ride to the airport with JD, Alan, and Ron in the SportsMobile. We talked about Ironman China which had wrapped up overnight. Sad to see, at the time, that JD's friend, Chris McDonald hadn't started the race....learned a couple days later that he entered the 70.3 instead and finished 2nd. Congrats to Chris.

Sad to be leaving Tucson, but it was a GREAT week of training and fellowship. I'll miss the other campers, but I'll particularly miss the EC coaches, especially JD. I hope that, with a better performance this year, that I'll be invited back.
It was, by far, the biggest week of training EVER for me. For the week:
29 hours, 58 minutes of training
15,900 yards of swimming
298 miles of riding
22 miles of running
So, I'm tired. But a good tired. Until next year....

4 comments: said...

Nice recap! I had as much fun reading it through your eyes as I had seeing it with my own.

And for the record, I got lost twice at Starr Pass which is why I didn't go out there on Thursday. :)


Lawrence L. Creswell, M.D. said...


Recall, I made a wrong turn at Saguaro Park East on Friday....and I had done the exact same run/route on the previous Sunday!

Other favorite Vince moments from the camp....

1. An enthusiastic "Hello, Larry" in the hotel lobby on day #0....based entirely on having seen my pic at! Hysterical.

2. Keeping me somewhat honest during the Colting set at the pool on Friday. Without Vince putting on the pressure in the adjacent lane, Larry would have dogged (even more) the 25's.

3. Vince's healthy cynical outlook on triathlon coaching during talk in the van.

Fun to meet you, Vince. I hope our paths cross again soon.


Jeff Shilt, M.D. said...


My most memorable points of any camp are the snapshots of progress noted in fellow athletes. The one of you this year was watching you climb Kitt Peak at the end of a very TOUGH week. Congrats on your continued path to health & wellness. Looks ogod on you.


Lawrence L. Creswell, M.D. said...


Thanks for the kind comment.

All week long, I truly appreciated the encouragement from the coaches and other campers. It's amazing what can happen in a supportive group setting.